Sept. 2019 | Issue 2
By John J. Hughes
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Self-Actualization: Finding Your Goal Line
How many jobs have you had so far? Let me be more specific. How many jobs have you had that you really enjoyed because they encouraged you through opportunities to learn, discover, and apply the potential you always knew you had? Maybe you’ve had several jobs like this or perhaps you are still looking. I believe one factor that we all share as professionals is a drive to pursue our potential through important, meaningful work.
If you know what it feels like to enjoy your work because you were fully engaged and committed, then you know what it feels like to be self-actualized. I have met many clients over the years who have been self-actualized most of their lives since they had clarity on what they wanted to accomplish. They often have both short and long-term goals. Still, many clients have struggled to find relevance in their jobs for various reasons.
What is Self-Actualization?
Self-Actualization is your ability to discover and to pursue your career potential by identifying and accomplishing increasingly challenging goals.
What does Self-Actualization look like?
People who score high in Self-Actualization on the EQ-i 2.0:
Report high levels of personal and professional satisfaction in their work.
Consistently challenge themselves to learn and grow.
Can identify those moments in their lives and the people who helped them understand their own career possibilities.
EQ-i Data: Career Goals & Gender
Working with individual clients who have taken the EQ-i 2.0 multiple times over the years has helped me to validate Self-Actualization as an important career goal measurement. One of the first scores I am drawn to when debriefing an EQ-i report is Self-Actualization.
This will often indicate the client’s current satisfaction level in his or her job or career trajectory.
I would describe people who score 115 or higher in Self-Actualization as getting close to finding and experiencing their full career potential. They are moving in the right direction. Based on the 1,356 EQ-i reports I have debriefed and analyzed, 703 executives, managers and professional staff members fall into this first category. They represent people who are goal-oriented and have a strong level of engagement and fulfillment in their work. Also, they often have a clear three-year goal and plan to reach it.
For this same population, 512 people scored between 100 and 114 in Self-Actualization. This second group is, in many ways, on a road to discovery. They may currently have a job they like, and it is paying the bills, but they have a burning desire to do more or something else. In this group, I find people who experience ”positive restlessness” which I describe as that inner voice questioning, “I can do more so what else is out there?” They feel restless since their current roles or responsibilities are not growing their skills or satisfying their potential. Many times, these people have an idea about the goals they want to pursue but have not yet developed an action plan.
The remaining individuals in this group, 129, for the most part, really do not like their jobs or, perhaps, the leaders for whom they work. The result is that many times these individuals are unhappy, for a variety of reasons, and they have a hard time acknowledging their potential or lack a pathway to understand it. People in this subgroup may never have had a clear career direction or they did have a goal at one time but it has been lost.
Are women more satisfied in their work than men? Or, are women more unfulfilled about their career goals than men? There is no gender difference in the data. To summarize, 51% of men and women in this population feel a high level of satisfaction in their work, 39% may like their current job but feel something is still missing and 10% would probably rather be doing anything else rather than their current job. It can be hard working for a leader when he or she is in this last group.
Self-Actualization and Energy
I once had a client, a Senior Vice President of HR for a multinational toy company, who had very high Self-Actualization and Social Responsibility scores. She seemed to be constantly on the move with internal corporate initiatives focused on leveraging company resources to help communities in need. She sat on the board of directors of two nonprofits and volunteered every weekend at her church. When I asked her where she got her energy, she told me, “When I leave this Earth I want to be completely used!” She saw herself as having an unlimited capacity to learn new things and to help other people.
People with high Self-Actualization are often easy to identify since they are enjoyable to work with. They have a way of energizing a business environment because they have goals they are pursuing. Their enthusiasm can be contagious. They know what they want out of life and get out of bed every day to go after it.
Self-Actualization is not about being satisfied or content with the present. Rather, it’s about pushing oneself until a person feels his or her full potential has been realized.
“It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given,
that separates one person from another.”
– Nelson Mandela
EQ-i Report Debrief: A Career Indicator
As part of her professional development philosophy, Ruth has taken the EQ-i 2.0 once a year for the past five years. She has been working at the same information technology company for over 15 years. Her EQ-i report data always indicated that she enjoyed her job, her boss, and was focused on achieving her next career goal. Over the years, Ruth had steadily increased her confidence level and skills as she expanded her responsibilities and relationships.
When I processed her last EQ-i report, I called Ruth immediately to see if she had experienced any major changes in her life since the report indicated a 12-point drop in Self-Actualization. When we spoke, she described how a recent corporate merger had eliminated the position she was working towards. At the same time, the CEO, someone whom she considered a mentor, retired. This left her without a clear direction or career support. Ruth also admitted to being a bit pissed off. That last part was reflected in a little lower Empathy and Impulse Control.
Based on my experience, Ruth was entitled to feeling frustrated and annoyed as she saw the career goal she was working towards disappear. It reminded me of my favorite Colin Powell phrase, “Get mad, then get over it.” I know I would be disappointed, but we are all entitled to feel angry from time to time. It is what we do with this negative energy that drives our behavior.
The coaching sessions with Ruth were focused on reestablishing a new set of objectives for her to pursue. Instead of leaving the company, she started to put energy into meeting the new leadership and understanding the business strategy. This meant investing in re-establishing her internal relationships and network, which usually happens when organizational and leadership changes occur.
We also talked about re-engaging and expanding her external network by attending events and conferences and reconnecting with professional contact via LinkedIn. Just to stay ready, she also updated her resume which is always a good idea. Ruth is moving through the change, found two new mentors and, for now, sees a future in the company.
Some Background of Self-Actualization
The concept of self-actualization is associated with the work of Abraham Maslow and the paper he wrote in 1943, "A Theory of Human Motivation". Maslow believed that as our needs develop, we are motivated to satisfy them in the form of a hierarchy. Our initial needs, such as food, safety, and love, must be met in order for us to achieve growth towards self-actualization which means reaching our full potential.
I believe it is important for you to create some time for yourself to reflect on your future. Here is an article from Psychology Today, “How to Get on the Path to Self Actualization" explaining Maslow's 8 steps to achieving Self-Actualization.
When I reflect back on my 25-year corporate career in HR working for IBM and the New York Times, I know my Self-Actualization score probably fluctuated since not every job I had was enjoyable or fulfilling. Raising a family back then, while being worried about a mortgage and tuitions, my professional life was more about bringing home a paycheck and not thinking about fulfilling my career potential. Yet, I did find time to think about my future and set goals.
Developing Your Self-Actualization
If you or your clients are interested in increasing Self-Actualization, consider writing down the answers to these questions:
What do I want to be doing three years from today?
What am I doing today to prepare to reach that goal?
The challenge of this exercise is to be as clear and specific as possible when identifying the career goal(s) you want to achieve. Some people are not sure of what they want to do in the future since they are so distracted by the present.
If you are not clear about future goals, then imagine yourself with $50,000,000.00. If you had that much money, what would you be doing with your life right now? The answer to this question can be very revealing about how a person views his or her potential and capacity to help other people.
As you start to identify that next goal, job, or career objective, begin to think about those people who will support you. They will be part of maintaining and developing the next skill of Self-Regard.
“Do you certify people for the EQ-i 2.0 & EQ 360?”
Yes. Since 1997, I have delivered more than 1,500 EQ-i Reports to leaders, managers and staff members who have wanted to improve their emotional intelligence skills. I am currently certifying executive coaches, consultants and HR professionals and helping them to use the EQ-i 2.0 and EQ 360 for hiring, research and leadership development.
For more information about the certification process or to setup a 1-on-1 confidential EQ-i coaching session with me, please check my website www.eiassessmentsllc.com for more information.